Maintaining a work-life balance is very crucial and yet so tough in today’s world. Work pressure many a time, take a toll on our lives, impacting our health & our family as we continue giving precedence to work; perchance, it could be the sole means to make our living!’
Tom was fuming after another assumption based feedback that he had recently and unfairly received from his boss. After almost 10 days of sickness sabbatical, he was back into the fray only to be humiliated and criticized about the lags in the workflow, operational glitches and baseless accusations which were deemed to be flawed thus thwarting his effectiveness.
Tom had taken the feedback with a smile & a pinch of salt. He declared that he was anticipating this criticism post his return from his sabbatical and despite his contrary belief on the allegations, he thanked his boss to keep the truce. But inside, he was fuming. He was hell-bent on getting a complete feedback to understand pointers on how and where he could change to a win-win work style as a way forward towards his superior. His superior was a fastidious man who was unhappy within and thus being coercive, micro-managing, imposing to get his way done for gaining brownies for salving his ego.
However, he faced the ire of his boss the first day of his return from his recent surgery, as though the boss was waiting to nab and eat him raw. Although Tom was prepared that the vehement boss may rankle him, demanding head on tight timelined job chores, the feeling that he was being treated as a slave stemmed from such interfaces, especially his bosses unrealistic expectations to work during holidays or sickness absenteeism, with an eye for detail, zilch scope of error, as an infallible creature was quite draining and harsh for Tom to comprehend. To top it all, baseless allegations & irrational criticism that spewed from the boss was unjust and intolerable for him.
He was baffled when his boss garbled cynically: “take another 6 weeks of sabbatical and let me know if you can or cannot bring the work quantum towards “internal set benchmark.” The benchmarks were defined approx. 4 years back when the work quantum was at a constant low & his tenacity & low risk taking ability did not allow the process to be tweaked for optimal resource utilization! An explanation was out of scope as the boss sagaciously escaped his stance by saying “I don’t have no time to understand the process at execution level or your implementation issues, bring back the internal set timelines to get the process streamlined”. Having said that, the boss could have left at it, Tom was hurt & wondered, why did she have a temper flare and the acrimonious attack, what went wrong in his absence, or was it that he did not offer assistance while being in the hospital as some of his cronies have done in the past? Tom wished he could gather his self-respect, muster some courage and just throw away his job – although the feeling was of sheer vehemence and absolute dejection, Tom felt, unfortunately, due to his personal obligations, took a step back to remain committed to his current insecure and stressful job. Tom felt tied down to the shackles of slavery, work was drudgery and he was under a constant pressure of facing humiliation and the heat from his whimsical boss.
Contemplating on the incident, as Tom took his daughter off to walk later that evening, to get her school stationary refilled, he was still flustered with the proceeds at work, seemed pensive and distant. As the father & daughter walked from shop to shop, Tom was fuming, cribbing, cursing and accusing his superior, complaining about how he felt and how unjustly the boss had behaved at work.
Tom swore a lot and his daughter suddenly quipped “hey, you’ve sworn so many times in a span of 5 minutes, take care” and Tom retorted, “check the magnitude of anger that’s simmering inside of me dearie, can you understand the gravity of trauma that man may have inflicted on me? Just ‘coz he doesn’t know how to give constructive feedback?!”. Amy remained silent as they continued to walk, she was enjoying the drizzle and she kept moving off her protective umbrella against the rain to feel the drizzle on her, her face getting wet.
Tom smiled, he liked that innocent fun that she was having, and he suddenly lightened.
As they passed by the church on their stretch, Tom mumbled, “please Lord, help me to get a better job, criteria – a good boss.” Amy immediately countered “no boss on this earth is good, they all are meant to be cruel” and Tom was zapped. How on earth would Amy make such a statement! Amy shrugged, “I just know it”. Perchance, she meant that all people with authority and power think that it is their right to misbehave and exploit people working under them, & treat them as slaves, not respect them as humans but as commodities, who could be manipulated per their authoritarian prowesses, misusing their powers to allay their insecurities. Perchance, Amy had hit the right chord with that statement. Tom reconsidered, maybe, the boss did not know how to push or motivate Tom towards unified teams goals, or rather, define and set the right expectations.
Perchance due to the bosses ineptitude to communicate effectively, he could have lost his temper and used threatening, criticism as a means of slaughter to get him results. Some bosses deem such demeanour by virtue of their hierarchy in the organization & to behave rudely to showcase and throw their weights around as their right! In fact, the team who had been designated the task to take care of the work quantum in Toms absence actually had struggled, were unable to manage the extra burden delegated to them efficiently. In a world where expectations are not well defined, it gets easy to push the buttons or enter the blame game at a fall of a pin or making of an error, such jungle rules & systems have the opportunistic malevolent competitors fill in rumours to seek extra brownie points to get way ahead in the race! Tom wondered, does his boss not have a mind of his own to disregard false wolves in the pack? Or is it that leading such pack of wolves in a system with no well-defined process is encouraged to keep the lion in his den well protected?
Tom and Amy purchased the stationary, choosing and seeking each other’s opinion on what could be the best buy. Tom ran few other errands, the roads that they strolled on, were as good as an adventure as they had many potholes, murky & muddy, some stretches had trees bending, bowed enough, touching the pedestrian or rather blocking the path; while some others had electric poles with wires dangling off their hooks low enough to touch a passer bys head. Amy was although enjoying the stretch, as it was not her routine, but nevertheless, she enjoyed the stretch as a fun game, naming it akin to parkour! Tom kept on speculating how he should stop letting the shortcomings of his boss and the whimsical mood swings that paved the way to incisive criticism stop affecting him till he gets a better opportunity & continues doing his best in the quagmire that he is in. Amy partook in understanding Tom’s situation, helping him, listening to him, with as much intelligence that she held.
As they were now walking towards the last errand, a sudden downpour of rain caught them, soaking them just as they hurried to open the umbrella. Amy’s umbrella twisted and she started laughing, as she got wet. Tom pulled her umbrella back down on her. As Tom went to get the last item on his list in the store, Amy stood in the rain with the umbrella, watching people rushing back homewards or for their errands, evading the downpour, with umbrellas or those caught in the rains without umbrellas, patiently watching and yet enjoying every bit of the moment. Tom looking back at her, smiling, feeling the happiness of that moment that Amy was into, so much pure and innocent pleasure, the pleasure of being in the now. Amy suddenly took a deep breath, smelling the earthy smell emanating from the bosoms of the parched earth that just got drenched with cold droplets of rain. She looked askance at me, re-checked the word in her mind whether correct not correct, “is that Petri?” Tom corrected “Petrichor”, both mumbled the word and played with its phonetics to get the correct pronunciation.
Amy started speaking that she had found stuff on Youtube where she started speaking about how people leave their bosses and not an organization or a job, how if one wasn’t happy in their current work, people started searching for better opportunities, what are the etiquette of an interview and so on. Tom was muted with astonishment as to how a small kid as her, a 13-year-old, could be so vocal about so many topics which she’s not yet experienced too. And Tom, all the while was stuck in the ruts of his own conflicts with his boss. Suddenly the world through the eyes of Amy looked so humongous, full of opportunities and Tom immediately felt as though a heavy weight was off his chest. After all, a hassle at work couldn’t kill him for sure and there was much more to it than being merely stuck on the criticism. There was life beyond work, pure pleasures, life had innocence and freedom as seen through the eyes of a kid! As father & daughter were now returning homeward, suddenly Amy stopped Tom amidst the rantings, hugged him, held him by the shoulder and without much emotions, softly said “Pop, do remember, I would always be there with you in your worst and the best of times. Don’t feel alone” and she pecked a kiss on Tom’s forehead. That single statement was so heart-touching, so profound, that it cleared all the vile and the fog and the fury within Tom. So what, if he had a bad day with his boss or had many bad days with his whimsical boss? Amy with this lovely gesture transformed it into a beautiful memorable day!!!
Some Pearls of Wisdom shared by Amy that day:
- The power to transform: No matter how bad your day can be, every cloud and every bad phase has a potential to be transformed into something really beautiful, better and memorable.
- Have fun under any circumstance: Find ways to have fun and adventure. Be a child when waddling through issues or challenges and find solutions to every situation with fun and frolic.
- Find your support system to vent out your fury and have an empathetic listening ear around you, it proves a balm to a sore soul.
- All bosses are meant to be cruel!!! Haha, pedagogical and patriarchal systems may say yes. In today’s world though, this is and would not be in fashion for long. In fact, most organizations and leaders in the world are embracing a transparent, empathetic and mutually respecting environment, they are speaking of mindfulness not only in schools but also at workplaces. It’s time to bring in a paradigm shift in the management styles especially changing the leadership style in the face of the millennials who know it all, who have myriads of opportunities and are vocal about their needs and demands.
- Find & learn better ways to give constructive feedback to your employees than venting out vehement criticism to make the other person feel puny. Hone your skills to provide the right feedback at the right time in a right way. We don’t have to look into management, go into the foundations of philosophy, Aristotle’s challenge who said “Anyone can become angry – that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way – this is not easy.”. Develop the art of constructive feedback.
- Be with your people in phases of crisis and mobilize a system of flexibility at the workplace, to accommodate workplace demand during a potential crisis, plan for the best but anticipate & thus plan for the worst as well.
- Time to start moving work culture from performance to reformance, rebuild and reconnect.
- Possibilities are aplenty, only if intent becomes the vision and mission of organizations. Social Reformation in the way organizations work would benefit the greater good than the profit-centric few within the organizational hierarchy.
Amy an innocent child, an epitome of innovation, untarnished intelligence to make decisions that can build better systems and problem-solving frameworks. Tom is an epitome of all the employees who are stuck in the rut of work systems and policies that are monopolistic and tyrannical without respect & care for an individual. As for the boss, the typical globally hated autocratic figure!
Life is simple, do not complicate it. Enjoy each moment as it comes and never take work issues home and vice versa. Despite problems, there is always a way to a better life ad better solutions, don’t chain yourself. Stress kills so does work, work for a purpose so that we look forward to building a new day, every day! These are the pearls of wisdom through a 13-year-old!